Frac Dunkirk: a living relationship with art in Northern France
Though the building and framework are sublime, the FRAC Nord Pas de Calais has for some years now given the impression of being somewhat lost, fumbling in the dark. But things look set to change for the institution based in northern France, a region rapidly emerging as the second most important artistic and museum hub in the country.
Established in 1982, the FRACs (Regional Contemporary Art Funds) are often taken for museums, although it is not the case. If their attendance figures may seem modest, it is not the number of entries that counts for a FRAC, but rather the number of people affected as well as the significance and impact of its action.
As Keren Detton, the Director of FRAC Nord Pas de Calais, says: "Visitors come to the centre, but we also reach out to them." Detton highlights "the important role of territorial networking," through "artists residences, design collaborations, initiation conferences and higher education research. "
In total — notably thanks to the help of exhibitions organized in some 20 schools — the 1,500 works of the FRAC collection reach around 100,000 people annually. The idea is to "enable distant audiences, geographically or culturally, to discover art, and thus a part of themselves. This living relationship with art is the real driving force behind FRAC."
With a new acquisition committee at its helm, including Eva Wittocx, the latest curator of the Belgian pavilion in Venice, the institution seems to be making a fresh start. In 2016, works by young artists including Kiluanji Kia Henda (b.1978), Nicolas Deshayes (1983), and Paul Maheke (1985), or the more established, Ângela Ferreira (1959) and Aglaia Konrad (1960) joined the collection. This Technical Purchasing Committee is renewed every three years.
Andreas Maria Fohr © Pierre Antoine
"After thirty-five years in existence, the FRAC have acquired the Courbets, Manet and Picassos of today ... They have proved their excellence in the constitution of an artistic heritage and in its diffusion,” says Detton.
Located in Dunkirk, FRAC’s positioning in a regional cross-border space will secure its position as an international platform. In turn, the international dimension of the collection will remain “a strong element of its identity.” The idea is thus to highglight "the social and cultural history of the region, weaving multiple relationships."
"The axes of Frac Nord-Pas de Calais are innovative design, social engagement, with a movement toward shapes and imaginary forms," says the Director.
As an ambassador for creative arts in the region, FRAC will inaugurate a project called 'Public Pool' this year. A series of exhibitions "where the work of regional artists will echo the collection. We entrust the design of teaching devices to young artists (Ludivine Sibelle just outside of Fresnoy), and collaborate with artist residencies, including La Malterie et Fructôse, of which we will present the serigraphic workshops in the spring.”
"Because its mission is prospective, the Frac will surprise. We know well that the history of art is not a history of consensus," says Detton.
Exhibition view "Les objets domestiquent", 2017, Frac Nord-Pas de Calais, Dunkerque (Photo : Pierre Antoine)
Current exhibitions at FRAC Nord Pas de Calais
A tribute to the Belgian photographer and co-founder of Agence Vu, Michel Vanden Eeckhoudt, notably through his famous black and white photographs of animals, taken around the world, and often evoking human postures – until April 30, 2017.
On the top floor of the FRAC, "Domestic Objects" brings together the works of some 30 artists — including Nina Beier, Carol Bove, Maurizio Cattelan, Martin Creed, Cady Noland and Philippe Ramette — and considers our relationship with the objects, their omnipresence, how they influence our daily life, the relations we maintain with them – until August 27, 2017.
Also presented is Catherine Rannou's "International Agency, Anne, Jean-Philippe and Richard Exhibition." Rannou is interested in questions of colonisation via human construction, legal or otherwise, through the agency of architecture, born directly of the imagination – until April 9, 2017.